Roma Evictions in Face of Development in Istanbul

Denver When the Organizers’ Forum visited with various unions and community-based organizations in Ankara and Istanbul in 2006, one of the most experiences we shared was a visit to a Roma community on the east, Asian side of Istanbul across the Bosporous.  There we met Hacer Foggo, a young woman organizer and activist who was deeply involved in the efforts of this and other Roma communities who were being uprooted by upscale residential and commerical development throughout the area.  Standing in the camp, everywhere we looked we could see the highrises leaping into life from the arc of the cranes.

Several weeks ago, I reached out to Hacer to introduce friends traveling in that direction.  She caught me up to date with the continuing forced, and perhaps illegal, evictions and land taking particularly in the Roma community of Kucukbakkalkoy.  Though this is unusual for this space, I’m including Hacer’s pictures and commentary below, because of both its power and tragedy.

Human rights of families and communities deserve respect and attention regardless of the “manifest destiny” of development, where this can mean life and death to some and only more money a couple of days earlier to others.

Here are Hacer’s photos and her annotations:

photo 1Photo 1: 19  Haziran 2006: 240 houses in the Roma neighbourhood of Küçükbakkalköy, in the Atasehir district of Istanbul  were demolished by anti-terror police teams and police forces from the Metropolitan Istanbul Municipality and Kadikoy municipality. Tear gas was used on protestors.

photo 2Photo 2: They didn’t even let people to remove their belongings before demolition. Police used force against those who wanted to evacuate their houses to keep their belongings safe. 10 were taken to custody and some of their relatives, who fainted during the row, were carried  away brutally.

photo3Photo 3: 2008. Roma houses were bought by investors at very low prices to construct appartment building complexes for a housing society of jurists, causing the former owners to live in ruins for two years deprived of  electricity and  city water. Some of them moved to their relatives homes, some of them went to other sections of the city and some set up tents under viaducts.

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Remittance Disclosures and Western Union Babble Speak

NeDSCN1016w Orleans ACORN International’s global Remittance Justice Campaign (www.remittancejustice.og) continues to confront new, amazing, and mysterious challenges as ACORN Canada pushes forward in Ottawa and British Columbia.

In a meeting won by actions at the ACORN Canada convention six weeks ago with top officials of the Finance Ministry our negotiators efforts to discuss the need for regulation of remittances to prevent predatory pricing and achieve needed equity, transparency, and fundamental fairness was greeted about the same way as if we had started cursing loudly at the front of the church.  We had offended fundamental, conservative Stephen Harper government dogma about so-called “free markets” and laissez faire rapacious capitalism by banks and money transfer organizations, especially if the rip-off occurred with migrant workers and immigrant, “new Canadians” as they are called.

The Finance Ministry turned the conversation to “disclosures” in a patty cake, kiss-your-cousin shot across the ACORN bow.  Disclosures just won’t get it done, but….  There are some critical things that could be achieved by some real disclosures that include:

  • simple language
  • base rate from remitting institution to country for bank customer
  • base rate from remitting institution to country for non-bank customer
  • transparent fees at receiving end if any or a guarantee that there are none.
  • disclosure of exchange rate at time of remittance transfer
  • disclosure of pricing regime compared other electronic transfer procedures to prove this is not discriminatory pricing

We might save billions just by letting that little light shine.IMG_1073-1

On the western side of Canada an action by ACORN British Columbia demanding remittance justice provoked an email response from Englwood, Colorado, a Denver suburb, and headquarters of Western Union.  Spokesman there told the Burnaby News-Leader:

“’Many people worldwide have no access to formal financial services. We invest in rural areas and urban locations alike to offer consumers an option to send and receive remittances and better manage their finances.’  Increased consumer choices for sending money have led to lower costs across the industry, the company said.”

Wow!  Here is what that statement translates to in normal everyday English:

“We enjoy near monopoly advantages in many global markets because there are no other financial service alternatives, so we charge whatever we damned well please to send and receive remittances, because we can.  The only reason we will lower costs is if a competitor crowds into our monopoly market and forces us to have to do so.”

DSCN1019At ACORN I guess Western Union thought it was important to remind us that with no regulations and little competition, rapacious corporate greed can pretty much stand on its hind legs and flip off its customers, their organizations, and entire limp wristed, uncaring governments at their whim and will.  Hello!